Things to Do in St Thomas
Magens Bay is just one of the reasons why the US Virgin Island of St. Thomas is such a popular holiday isle. The island’s favorite beach is a curving arc of white sand and bright blue water. It’s protected by a forested arboretum and palm trees, ensuring calm waves for swimming and kayaking. From the vantage point of Mountain Top, you can easily make out the bay’s unusual rectangular shape and mile of white-sand beach, but the best view is up close from the sand. Being so popular, the beach has some great facilities, including lifeguards, showers, snack stall and windsurf rental. A nature trail winds from Magens Bay Road down the beach, just over a mile, taking you through tropical forest and mangroves via boardwalks and well-maintained steps and paths.
Coki is St. Thomas’s party beach, thronged with families, revelers and beach vendors. Snorkelers and divers love Coki’s underwater clarity and sea creatures. Beach day-trippers enjoy the sand, sunshine and wandering vendors of drinks and snacks, souvenirs, sunscreen and hair-braiding.
Coki Beach is quite a scene, lively and fun rather than quiet and laid-back. Beach lounges and thatch umbrellas can be hired, along with all kinds of water sports equipment, from jet skis to snorkel gear. The fish are used to people at this popular beach, and have even been known to eat from your hand (BYO dog biscuits).
Located in beautiful St. Thomas, Coral World is considered the best family attraction in the US Virgin Islands. Much of this integrated marine park displays the true habitat of its subjects, with both indoor and outdoor observation facilities meant to exemplify the diverse and plentiful nature of the area’s aquatic species.
One of the park’s most drawing qualities is the interactive aspect of the attraction. Feed the sharks, turtles and string-rays; come face-to-face with iguanas and pet baby sharks; or go take a visit to Oscar the Sea Lion, who has regular performances in front of live crowds.
Some of the park’s other major attractions include (and are certainly not limited to) its 50,000 gallon Deep Reef Tank, sporting some of the mother nature’s deadliest carnivore’s, including moray eels, tarpon and plenty of sharks. Also be sure to check out the Marine Gardens, complete with 21 aquariums exhibiting wonderful and exciting water-life such as seahorses.
St. John might have the lion’s share of the Virgin Islands’ natural attractions, but the extraordinary concentration of flora and fauna in St. Thomas’ Mangrove Lagoon makes it a top eco-tourism destination.
Small kayak groups thread through the lagoon’s tiny red mangrove islands, with guides pointing out the huge diversity of birds they attract, including herons, egrets and ducks.
The route takes you to deserted Cas Cay island, where hermit crabs dart about among mangrove roots. On your gently-paced travels you’ll see young fish darting around this natural breeding ground. Low-impact snorkeling will get you even closer, and you’ll spot rays, eels and jelly fish as well as a host of colorful tropical fish.
More Things to Do in St Thomas
St. Thomas is a hugely popular Eastern Caribbean cruise destination, and is well set-up for shore visitors. With great shopping, sightseeing and beach relaxation in easy reach, there’s everything you need for a perfect day ashore on a holiday island. Along with St. John, St. Croix and Water Island, St. Thomas is part of the US Virgin Islands, sprinkled amongst the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. The British Virgin Islands are neighbors to the east, and Puerto Rico is around 40 miles (64km) away to the west.
How to Get to Charlotte Amalie Ships drop anchor in Charlotte Amalie’s harbor, only a few minutes’ ride from downtown by tender. Once on dry land, all the amenities, duty-free shopping, Danish architecture and boutique-lined laneways are at your fingertips. Most shops are on Veterans Drive and Main Street. The best way to travel further afield on St. Thomas is by organized tour or taxi.
In the old days of Imperial Empires and the early colonization of the Caribbean, tall ships would set their ballasts with huge stones and offload them when filling up with spices and other exotic Caribbean goods, leaving the stones as a reminder of their visit. Intrepid residents of Charlotte Amalie in St Thomas have since decided to use these stones as a stairway up the city’s hills, which serves to remind residents of their colonial roots.
What makes the 99 Steps (there are actually 103; 99 Steps has a better ring to it) an attraction, however, is the lush foliage on either side of the stairway and the spectacular view from high atop the mountain once you make the climb. At the top you'll see Black Beard’s Castle. Innovative explorers have learned that a cab can be taken up to the top to avoid walking up 103 stairs. It’s easy, however, to take the 99 Steps downward at a leisurely pace.
High above Charlotte Amalie is Skytsborg (“sky tower”), a round defensive tower built by the Danish in 1679 to watch for enemy ships which might attack Fort Christian and other harbor settlements. While there was a real pirate called Blackbeard (Edward Teach) who prowled nearby waters, his association with the site owes more to tradition than history.
And anyway, who needs a history lesson when you have one of the great Caribbean views laid out before you. The visual feast encompasses dramatic green slopes, bobbing yachts, hulking cruise ships and outlying islands. Facilities at the site include a swimming pool and snack bar.
Honeymoon Beach is a peaceful cove characterized by a long, soft sandy beach that gently curves against the turquoise sea and is framed by palm trees and lush greenery. Though often visited by those vacationing on the Caribbean island of St Thomas, Honeymoon Beach is actually located on Water Island, a tiny isle that is a short distance offshore from St Thomas. Both islands are part of the US Virgin Islands. Honeymoon Beach provides a respite from the harried shoppers in Charlotte Amalie and is a good alternative to St Thomas' popular Magens Bay.
Honeymoon Beach provides an ideal respite for travelers to forget their lingering work stress from back home and just relax. The beach has a large stretch of sand next to calm waters, making it an ideal place to swim. Restaurants, bars and bathrooms are also conveniently adjacent to the beach.
Located on the western edge of St Thomas’ harbor, Hassel Island was once part of a peninsula. But the Danish government decided that separating it from St Thomas would create better water circulation in the harbor, so in the 1860s Hassel Island was born. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers widened the channel again in 1919, further separating the island from St Thomas.
Today, it is primarily a national park and a popular spot with visitors to St Thomas. Hassel Island is best explored via a kayaking, hiking or snorkeling tour, all of which give visitors a combination of a history lesson and an eco-adventure. And although it is primarily governed as a national park, there are several private estates on the remaining land, including a 10-acre compound with three houses totaling 15,000 square feet.